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The Apostles Creed
I Believe :
On The Third Day He Rose Again

The Apostles' Creed 

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On The Third Day He Rose Again

The River Etive is one of my favourite haunts. I would often go for a swim there on a summer's day, after having been for a walk in the hills. There is a pool that has been carved out by a waterfall, that is so deep that you can't actually touch the river floor. Add to this the rich, tea-like, peaty water of the fast flowing upland stream, and the river floor seems all the more illusive.  

As we come to explore the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are invited to dive into something quite limitless. In the words of the apostle Paul, it is "the mystery of God's will." This sense of mystery does not mean that it is something hidden or secret; it is not like the peat-stained waters that deliberately conceal. No, it is a mystery in that we cannot fathom it by ourselves. We need the Spirit of God to be our guide and teacher, as we probe the depths of this event in history, that radically changes everything forever. 

Did you know that it is all right to ask God questions in order to enter into his mysteries? Indeed, God himself says through the prophet Jeremiah "Call to me and I will answer you, I will show you great and mighty things that you did not know."  

With that said, let us enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus by asking questions. Not with our intellect and our mind but with our whole self, postured in a spirit of humility.  

As I lead this reflection, centre down inside yourself. Take a few deep breaths. Be aware of your senses, feelings and emotions. If it is of help to you, you may wish to close your eyes. 

Our reflection begins in the darkness of the tomb. 

What do you see? Darkness. A thick darkness. You can't see your hand in front of your face. It is so dense that it brings a paralysis; you can't move a muscle in this prison of death. It is a darkness worse than that found in the dead of night, because at night we know that the dawn must come, the sun will rise. Here in this place, this darkness has a terrible finality about it. 

How do you feel? Hard done by? Well here we receive our just deserts. It's payday. Here in this place we receive the wages of our sin. Here in this place called death, where terror stalks in the endless night. 

But wait, God is in this place. We can't see or hear him because of the dreadful darkness and because the Word made flesh is silent and not speaking. But his cold, beaten, lifeless body is lying there embalmed on the slab of death. 

How Hades gloats. Like a pirate stumbling upon a horde of treasure he holds the battered body of Jesus like a precious stone, death's icy rigor mortis fingers, are firmly fixed around God's anointed One. 

"I have got him!" death shouts. "I can't believe it! I thought that he was going to come down off that cross. There was a moment when he seemed to be summoning the power of Elijah, when he would stride down and give us all a good licking. But no, he yielded. He surrendered - he came right into my lair, and I now hold him captive." 

Where are you now Jesus? For it is only the shell of your body beneath those grave clothes.  

You promised the thief a journey into paradise.  

Yet elsewhere it says that you descended to the bowels of the earth.  

Did you, the second Adam, journey to hell so that you could take back from the cruel serpent jailor, the keys to earth's dominion? 

Is it possible that you can be in two places at once? 

And tell me Jesus, are you resting now, a deep Sabbath rest?  

empty tomb

Do you hear that?  

Two glorious sounds in the early morning of the third day.  

The first is the sound of stone on stone, slowly grinding, as the very jaws of Hades are prized apart and thoroughly dislocated forever. It is the sound of a stone rolling slowly away. Light floods everything and spills everywhere.  

Who else are present in this moment? Were the other persons of the Trinity close at hand at the Lord's rising?  

Did the Holy Spirit come again to hover and move upon the face of the last great chaotic void?  

Did the Abba of Jesus speak? Did his Father come, in the way that a parent comes and stands in the bedroom doorway or sits at the edge of the bed, and speaks to wake their child at the start of a new day? 

Did he speak the words of the lover in the Song of Songs? 

"Arise my beloved, my beautiful one and come away.
For behold the winter is past. The rain is over and gone
The flowers have already appeared in the land.
The time has arrived for pruning the vines
And the voice of the turtle dove has been heard in our land.
The fig tree has ripened its figs
And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.
Arise my love, my fare one and come away."

Do you now hear that?  

That is the second glorious sound. 

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. It is the beat of a heart, faint at first. Defying logic. Transcending reason. It is a drum beat of defiance, a victorious war cry against death and all his friends. 

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. It is becoming louder and more regular now. Winter truly has passed - rigor mortis' icy fingers have to give ground, as Jesus' muscles thaw, and new blood pumps through new veins, in a body made new, but now so thoroughly different. Walking-through-locked doors-different. Wounds that once wept, weep no more. 

But why Jesus, do you still bear the marks of your slaughter? Do you wear your wounds like glorious trophies? 

I wonder, did he get up instantly, and did angels help him in the unbinding from the linen wrappings? Or did he just lie there for a moment, smiling and laughing, breathing in deeply the rich perfume used in his embalming. One thing is certain: this Aslan is stepping off the stone table; this Neo has stopped the deadly bullets from our Matrix prison.  

What did you do then Jesus, my green fingered friend? 

Did you step outside, feel the new dawn upon your face, and tend all creation that, like you, will one day be made new? What was it about you that caused Mary to mistake you for a gardener? Did you have a hoe in your hand, breaking up and opening the soil, causing border perennials to join with the garden birds, in a dawn chorus hymn of praise. 

Oh yes, then there is Mary. Why did God choose that one who, being female, could not be called on as a credible witness in any court of the land in that day? Why was she chosen to be the first ever evangelist? Women in ministry? Without this woman, there would perhaps be no 'ministry' ! Is this God again taking the so-called 'foolish' things of the day, to shame the wisdom of the wise? 

If this reflection has been about raising questions, then it is perhaps the question asked to Mary, by both the angels and Jesus, that rings out clearest…"Woman, why are you weeping?" 

Mary has blinkers on. She does not care, or even seem to notice, that she is conversing with angelic beings, that sit like bookends on either side of where their King had laid. Her grief is all consuming.  

"Where is He? Where have they laid him? They have taken my Lord away, and I don't know where he is!" 

Mary, do you hear the gardener, your teacher and friend, call your name? What did it sound like?  

"Mary!" Each syllable dripping in love.  

What did it feel like to see your greatest sorrow, turn to your greatest joy? 

Lord Jesus, what does it sound like when you call our names?  

Is it true that we are each known individually? 

Lord, can I hear you call my name?  

Howard Espie, 2010


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